As Margaret Thatcher once said, “being powerful is like being a lady. It you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
When Maggie frikking Thatcher takes you to school, you have to seriously question whether you are doing occultism wrong.
The relationship between magic and temporal power has been so close as to be nearly indistinguishable for thousands of years.
Is that still the case, or are the presumptive inheritors of this all-together unseemlyrelationship now just having annual meetings in carpeted function rooms of low-cost hotels out by the airport?
Is Magic still the bag-man-of-last-resort for Power?
I would say it is. But you aren’t going to like it. You aren’t going to like it for two reasons.
- It has nothing to do with you or me. We are playing dress-up in the garden while the big people talk inside.
- It has a lot to do with people that have a lot to do with you. They probably gave you some of your beliefs. They certainly did me.
That last point doesn’t invalidate those beliefs, per se, but it does make them rather more murky. John Dee was the spy that invented the Empire. But Enochian seems to work, doesn’t it? It is a dangerous thing to dissociate these two identities. Because I think they coincide.
I think we can go so far as to say that the most important twentieth century western magical current is one that none of us are in. In terms of scale, in terms of results, in terms of terrestrial impact. The wizard’s place has always been beside the throne. Merlin, Morgana, Gandalf, Obi Wan.
So let’s take a peek at who is standing in our spot.
BEGINNING IN THE MIDDLE
The last 130 years appear to mark a shift in how occult organisations have been used. Or, at least, where in the architecture of power they have been positioned. In the preceding centuries, magic was either the plaything of an elite who could reasonably escape punishment or something poor people did on the fringes of woodland because they couldn’t afford the expert medical opinion of an educated man who would prescribe bloodletting, mercury, and opium.
Intellectually curious empires relaxed the enforcement of many of these laws. Previously, magical innovation may have emanated from the elite. Now, the parts that worked were snatched up. (“Her Imperial Majesty does not attend séances… But if the Countess might have a recommendation?”)
To some extent, this marked a change from secret societies’ previous function as a social technology to enable political discourse free from the prying eyes of the church and state to incubators of new social technologies. Channeling, hypnotism, yoga, etc.
Whilst there was a shift in the primary observable function of secret societies, we may nevertheless make some qualified assumptions as to the non-magical political beliefs and discussions held by these people… just as we may by observing magical groups today.
I want to go decade by decade and close with some macro observations. Because we are reconstructing a century-old chess game between spooks on the one hand and spectres on the other. These are but a few pieces. We can say they were in play, we can’t say with confidence which moves they made.
1900 – 1920
We have already covered the reception of the Book of The Law and its subsequent implications in the post-war space programme. But as we all know, Uncle Al was a very busy boy. So we will try not to jump around too much. This is rather difficult. As Peter Levenda has it in Unholy Alliance:
‘German sex-magic occult lodge’ may be a little lurid, sure, but let’s zero in on Theodore Reuss. A freemason and rosicrucian, prior to meeting Crowley in 1910, he had also worked for the Prussian secret police in the 1880s. It was on their orders that he travelled to London to infiltrate the Socialist League. So you can see that the spook/right wing/magic roots run deeper and older than factions inside the CIA and the space programme.
Reuss then went on to spy in the Middle East and the Balkans for the Germans, before initiating Crowley in 1912 and making him OTO head for Britain and then America. It is tempting to view Crowley’s behaviour here as spying, but my suspicion is that he retroactively spied by offering up pertinent information after later taking the king’s secret shilling.
Because there can be no doubt that Uncle Al was a spook:
Spence […] began his study by securing documents from the now defunct U.S. Army Military Intelligence Division. The file revealed an American investigation into Crowley’s activities in 1918, which led to the discovery that he was an employee of the British government.
Later in his life, Crowley claimed that he came to the U.S. as a British undercover agent with a mission to infiltrate and undermine the German propaganda effort. “He did undermine that effort,” said Spence. “His writing was an over-the-top parody of saber-rattling German militarism.”
He actively encouraged German aggressiveness, such as the attack on the Lusitania, with the ultimate aim of bringing America into the war. In doing so, “Crowley followed precisely the wishes of Admiral Hall, chief of British Naval Intelligence,” said Spence.
“Crowley was an adept amateur psychologist, had an uncanny ability to influence people and probably utilized hypnotic suggestion in his undercover work,” Spence added. “The other thing he made good use of was drugs. In New York, he carried out very detailed studies on the effects of mescaline (peyote). He would invite various friends over for dinner, fix them curry and dose the food with mescaline. Then he observed and took notes on their behavior.”
Mescaline, Spence noted, was later used by intelligence agencies for experiments in behavior modification and mind control.
We’ll obviously come back to that last bit. Because of reasons. But first, back to Germany.
Listen. Anyone who tells you that the Nazi party didn’t emerge from a swamp of occultism is wrong. That being said, anyone that tells you that Nazism was an organised attempt by a shadowy cabal of occultists to rule the entire planet is also wrong. (Looking at you, History Channel.)
Above is a picture of the Thule Society. From the wikipediaz:
The Society is notable chiefly as the organization that sponsored the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP), which was later reorganized by Adolf Hitler into the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP or Nazi Party). According to Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw, the organization’s “membership list…reads like a Who’s Who of early Nazi sympathizers and leading figures in Munich”, including Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Julius Lehmann, Gottfried Feder, Dietrich Eckart and Karl Harrer.
This ‘no evidence’ line is perpetuated by neckbeard academics who just don’t like the idea that their beloved subjects were wizards. (There may also be an element of sheepishness, given Operation Paperclip.) But Himmler paid people to look for holy relics, channel and he had a frikking grail castle.
There is ‘no evidence’ that the Nazi Party was riddled with occultists in the same way there is ‘no evidence’ for psi. Ie – there’s fuckloads of it, it’s just people don’t like it.
In a 1977 document titled “Parapsychology in Intelligence,” Kenneth A. Kress, an engineer with the CIA’s Office of Technical Services, wrote: “Anecdotal reports of extrasensory perception (ESP) capabilities have reached U.S. national security agencies at least since World War II, when Hitler was said to rely on astrologers and seers. ” And if anyone knew what Hitler was really up to, it was the CIA’s Office of Technical Services.
Himmler, like many early Wiccans, subscribed to Margaret Murray’s beliefs to do with the survival of Paganism, and bemoaned the “terrible loss of fine German blood” that occurred during the witch trials -perpetrated by the followers of a foreign god. The majority of modern occult beliefs emerge from the late imperial European soup that also gave us Nazism. You can literally build Hitler or Wicca from the same beliefs. But hey… the space programme and psychiatry also emerged from this soup, so maybe we’re in ‘good’ company?
Some of that entanglement may have been more direct, like the potential incorporation of the Golden Dawn grade structure into pre-Nazi secret societies. Once more from Unholy Alliance:
At the foundation of major organisations that laid the foundations for today’s western esoteric currents are some really, really shady dealings. This does not mean that the OTO is a Nazi plot or that Crowley’s oeuvre is wartime propaganda. The well isn’t poisoned… but someone may have slightly pissed in it.
Rather than arguing about whether or not Crowley was anti-Semitic or who was the proper king of whatever little hill you favour, a greater degree of sophistication is required in analysing your sources. There are some unsavoury entanglements here.
And there are going to be more.
1920 – 1946
Sybil Leek, who we will return to, tells us that Crowley; a friend of her father; used to read his poetry to her as a child. (Poor kid!)
More interestingly, she said that she and her father used to go for long walks with HG Wells -creator of the best alien invasion prank yet- where they would discuss occultism and metaphysics. This will be pertinent later on.
In 1926, Israel Regardie was initiated into a Rosicrucian group in Washington, D.C. in 1926… a group that leads us right to David Ferrie… meaning he was, at most, three steps removed from the assassination of JFK. Obviously he wasn’t involved, but it points, once again, to that particular entanglement.
Then, of course, we have the war. And Crowley. Again.
In World War II Crowley allegedly offered his services again to the NID. In the 1930s he became friendly with Maxwell Knight, the assistant director of the Security Service (MI5), Ian Fleming, the assistant-director of Naval Intelligence who later penned the James Bond spy novels, and Dennis Wheatley, the occult thriller writer who served on Winston Churchill’s top-secret planning committee for total warfare.
When war broke out in 1939, Spence says that Crowley was interviewed by the NID and in his diary he recorded that the meeting went “as satisfactory as could be expected.”
Crowley was first introduced to Dennis Wheatley by a member of the Labour Party and MI5 mole inside Britain’s communist movement, Tom Drieberg. Wheatley, one of the twentieth century’s most famous occult novelists, went on to introduce Crowley to Maxwell Knight…. who was the actual spymaster that Ian Fleming used as the template for ‘M’… who was, himself, fascinated with the occult and kept in regular contact with Crowley, often asking him questions about the field.
Peter Levenda stitches it together for us:
Himmler was obsessed by the idea that British Intelligence was being run by the Rosicrucian Order and that occult adepts were in charge of MI5… How would he have reacted had he known that the formidable Maxwell Knight, head of Department B5(b), the countersubversion section of MI5, was a disciple of Aleister Crowley himself? And that Dennis Wheatley -he of the occult novels favored by Göring- was also a student of Crowley’s and simultaneously working for Churchill’s Joint Planning Staff? […]
Particularly if Himmler had also been told that yet another British secret agent -this time James Bond novelist Ian Fleming of the Department of Naval Intelligence- was plotting to bring Reichsleiter Rudolf Hess to England on an occult pretext involving… Aleister Crowley.
Both Crowley and Sybil Leek would subsequently claim that they were the ones who were hired to create false astrological charts to convince the astrology-obsessed Hess to fly to Scotland in an attempt to secure peace between the Nazis and Britain. This doesn’t strike me as an either/or situation. If you’re an astrology fan, you tend to check more than one interpretation. Leek may seem a really random choice, at first, but she has always claimed a connection with this world… and later in the piece you will see she resurfaces again in spook land… which makes it more likely that she had some prior experience working with intelligence agencies. (Crowley may have recommended her given their alleged shared past, but she was already notorious in her own right by this point in time.)
Fleming claimed it was his idea to use false astrological predictions… and he certainly had a head for wacky ideas, which we’ll come back to. But the Crowley/Hess angle gets a bit weirder:
When a combined NID/SIS sting operation managed to lure the top Nazi Rudolf Hess to Britain on his ill-fated ‘peace mission’ in 1941, Commander Ian Fleming of NID suggested to his superiors that he should be interviewed by Crowley. It is claimed in this book that Crowley did in fact interview Hess several times at a secret MI5 interrogation centre at Ham Common in south London.
Coincidentally this was not far from where Crowley was living at the time in Kew after leaving Central London to escape the Blitz.
I Didn’t know this. He lived two stops from me. Anyone have an exact address?
These connections have always been speculative, in that no official documentation has been forthcoming from MI5. Don’t hold your breath. What has previously prevented me from taking Crowley and Leek (and Fleming) at their words is Churchill’s fleshly pragmatism….
Continued via… Source: Very Bad Company – Occultism And Power – Rune Soup